Archaeological documentation

Submitted by Tammy Herron, President

An important aspect of conducting archaeology is documentation. Much of an archaeologist’s time is spent taking notes regarding observations in the field, filling out forms to document what is found in excavation units, taking photographs to document findings, drawing detailed maps, recording soils, completing artifact analysis forms, recording conservation treatments used on certain artifacts in the lab, and so forth. Researchers also spend time in the archives trying to reconstruct the ownership history and use of a site through time. I have included a paragraph from the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards and Guidelines regarding archaeological documentation:

Archaeological documentation is a series of actions applied to properties of archaeological interest. Documentation of such properties may occur at any or all levels of planning, identification, evaluation or treatment. The nature and level of documentation is dictated by each specific set of circumstances. Archaeological documentation consists of activities such as archival research, observation and recording of above-ground remains, and observation (directly, through excavation, or indirectly, through remote sensing) of below-ground remains. Archaeological documentation is employed for the purpose of gathering information on individual historic properties or groups of properties. It is guided by a framework of objectives and methods derived from the planning process, and makes use of previous planning decisions, such as those on evaluation of significance. Archaeological documentation may be undertaken as an aid to various treatment activities, including research, interpretation, reconstruction, stabilization and data recovery when mitigating archaeological losses resulting from construction. Care should be taken to assure that documentation efforts do not duplicate previous efforts.
I was in Statesboro, Georgia the other day running some errands when this plaque on the ground in front of the AgSouth Farm Credit building caught my eye. Wouldn’t it be nice if all historic sites were documented with a marker like this to direct our way! It would definitely cut down on the amount of time spent “digging” in the archives trying to document the ownership of a given site.